Pioneering St Davids-based outdoor education company TYF is urging people to support the #SaveOutdoorEd campaign, which aims to get the government to take action to save the outdoor education sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The campaign has led to a number of petitions and calls from MPs for the government to address the damage being done to the outdoor education sector by Covid-19, as well as the lost opportunities for people to get outdoors, boost their mental and physical health, learn about the natural world and gain skills and confidence.
Supporters of #SaveOutdoorEd are calling for a clear roadmap for resuming school trips, along with financial support for the sector, where Covid-19 restrictions have endangered livelihoods.
Some progress is being made. A new all-party parliamentary group for Outdoor Learning was recently formed, led by Aberconwy MP Robin Millar and Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, who recently urged the government to review its ban on residential trips.
TYF was founded in 1986 and was the first company to introduce coasteering as a commercial activity. It welcomes around 40 schools each season – approximately 200 children a week, and employs over 30 people each year, including seasonal instructors and year-round staff in its office and its St Davids shop.
Its activities are not only about boosting physical and mental fitness: the company also has a strong environmental focus and builds education about the environment and the natural world into its activities. Its high adrenaline activities are preceded by a “mindful minute” in which participants tune into their surroundings.
In 2014 TYF became one of the first certified B Corps in the UK in recognition of its social and environmental performance. The company is also ocean literate and carbon literate, meaning it promotes an understanding of the oceans and our influence on them, and an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, working to motivate people to reduce emissions.
Bonnie Middleton, marketing manager, TYF, says the loss of outdoor education during 2020 has had multiple effects.
“We are not only concerned about protecting jobs in the sector; we’re also aware of the lost opportunities to raise awareness of environmental issues at a time when the climate is in crisis,” she said. “We cannot miss another opportunity to engage the younger generation with nature as this could have a detrimental effect on their commitment to making positive changes in their lives. On top of that, people have lost valuable opportunities to boost their resilience, optimism and mental health through time spent outdoors. Outdoor activities have been shown to have multiple benefits, including lowering blood pressure, boosting self-esteem and relieving stress and anxiety. People need these now more than ever, and we’re eager to be able to welcome people back and resume our activities in a safe and supportive environment.”
With this in mind, TYF has revised its procedures to ensure all equipment is disinfected between uses, and that social distancing it built into its travel arrangements and activities.
“We’re confident we can keep people safe on our trips,” said Bonnie. “We now hope people will get behind the #SaveOutdoorEd campaign and urge the government to review its rules about overnight trips and to take action to protect jobs in outdoor education. Outdoor education staff and the activities they provide have a hugely positive impact on people and the environment, and we want that to continue.”
Anyone wanting to support the campaign can sign the petition urging a revision of Department for Education guidance at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/330559